How to Blow Up a Pipeline – Film Review

How to Blow Up a Pipeline – Film Review
by Hugh Maguire

Director – Daniel Goldhaber
Writers – Ariela Barer, Jordan Sjol, Daniel Goldhaber
Stars – Ariela Barer, Kristine Froseth, Lukas Gage

The very recent disruption of the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield by Just Stop Oil protesters is just one among a sequence of such protests, globally, targeting the oil industry, as a source of climate destruction.  From the soon-to-be crowned King of England to religious and political leaders globally, there is increasing awareness of the impacts of climate change, the risk to our livelihoods and the planet itself.  From the cows in the field to the oil magnates, the causes and sources of this destruction are varied, interlinked and complex.  There is much to protest about and the protesters, almost universally, take themselves very seriously.  Humour and levity are in short supply!

Such seriousness at times overwhelms the narrative in this oil-focused film.  A tight crew of unlikely protesters plan and organise the blowing up of a strategic oil pipeline in deepest Texas.  We watch their coming together, the plotting, the trial runs and the mixing of wires and attachments as they plot their event.  Billed as a thriller, we anticipate an edge-of-the-seat journey as they implement their improbable challenge.  Through flashbacks we are afforded insight into their motivation – the man whose farming livelihood is destroyed by the super greed of the oil company, the young woman whose childhood proximity to a belching oil refinery has compromised her health, the Native American bearing the grievances of centuries and ancestral lands, and so on.  We are meant to believe that such is the nobility of their calling that crime can pay. It certainly highlights if in a somewhat cack-handed way the diversity of motivation.

The cause is good.  The cause is true and it impacts us all.  The film is technically well handled and where there is a problem is the core narrative – not the acting, not the film work.  It is based on a 2021 book by Andreas Mann.  Can someone really have sat in a casting office and assembled such an unlikely crew?  Was it a PC agenda run wild – did someone say they must represent a cross-section of modern America?  So this leaves us with one square-jawed Aryan type – who exudes the air of someone storming the Capitol in January 2021 and a QAnon supporter rather than a climate protester.  He seems to be the only one with the physical strength required for the task at hand.  With him, we have the aforementioned Native American, the African American, and the Hispanic American and of course two of the crew are lesbian, just reminding us of how right on everyone is.   And yet with the exception of the African American they are all thoroughly self-obsessed and unlikeable.  So we are here to blow up an oil pipeline and yet everyone has driven miles to be here – from Chicago, from California.  Oil will be used to burn the evidence of their plotting hideout.  Oil-based derivatives are used in the sun cream which is liberally applied, not to mention oil powering the electronic systems and satellites – so crucial to their online constant texting and social media world.

Serious issues need to be treated seriously and cinematic representations should stimulate and promote debate and at best self-reflection.  The nail-biting should be from fear rather than tedium.


Categories: Header, Movie Review, Movies

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